The Independent State of Samoa is a peaceful parliamentary democracy with a proud history of free press, an independent judiciary, and a strong record of protecting human rights. It has a population of approximately 200,000 and a nominal GDP of USD 844 million. Samoa became the 155th member of the World Trade Organization in May 2012, and it is a member of the Commonwealth. Samoa is experiencing a deep recession due in large part to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In July 2021, the World Bank downgraded Samoa’s classification to “lower-middle income” from its previous status as an “upper-middle income” country.
Samoa is one of the most politically and economically stable democratic island countries in the Pacific. Following a months-long peaceful political impasse, Samoa experienced its first political transition in almost 40 years in 2021 and Fiame Naomi Mata’afa became Samoa’s first-ever female prime minister.
Samoa is located south of the equator, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean. Samoa’s total land area is 1,097 square miles, consisting of the two main islands of Upolu and Savai’i, which account for 99 percent of the total land area, and eight small islets. About 80 percent of land is customary land, owned by villages, with the remainder either freehold or government owned. Customary land can be leased, but not sold.
In the past decade, Samoa has taken steps to align its systems more closely with nations in the Southern Hemisphere and Asia. Samoans drove on the right side of the road (like the United States) until 2009, at which time the country shifted to driving on the left side as done in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. Until 2011, Samoa was located east of the international dateline in the same time zone as Hawaii but is now one of the first countries in the world to start each day.
The small island country has experienced catastrophic natural disasters, including a 2009 earthquake and tsunami that killed hundreds, and severe cyclones in 2012 and 2018. These calamities have inflicted damage equivalent to a quarter of Samoa’s GDP, representing significant setbacks to the economy.
In February 2021, the Central Bank of Samoa stated that the country’s economy was in full recession as the impact of COVID-19 global pandemic affected all sectors. From a peak in 2019, Samoa’s GDP contracted by over 7.5 percent in real terms through the end of 2021. The recession was caused by declines in tourism, business services, transport, and the communications sector. Samoa’s government understands that that its economy needs external investment and is generally welcoming of FDI.
The service sector accounts for nearly three-quarters of GDP and employs approximately 65 percent of the formally employed labor force. Pre-COVID-19, tourism was the largest single activity. The government shut Samoa’s borders from March 2020 until August 2022 in response to the pandemic and tourism is yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels.
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2022||N/A||http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview|
|Global Innovation Index||2022||N/A||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions)||2021||USD 20M||https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2021||USD 3,810||https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD|